Volume 17 • Issue 3 | June 11 - 17, 2004

Perfect fourth grade reading score for P.S. 150

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess

Students at P.S. 89 celebrated the end of the school year at a carnival on Pier 25 this week.

P.S. 150 fourth graders aced the statewide English test this year, with 100 percent of the students meeting or exceeding the standards in the annual high-stakes exam.

“We’re delighted—it’s great news,” said Alyssa Polack, principal of the tiny Tribeca elementary school, where 26 fourth graders took the test.

Unlike some schools, where only students identified as needing an extra boost are eligible for afternoon test prep, all students are invited to test-prep sessions at P.S. 150, Polack said. The school held twice-weekly sessions for 10 weeks before the test, she said.

“Obviously, I was very proud of the work the kids did,” said Jackie Toscano, mother of Isabel Jenkins, a fourth grader at P.S. 150. “It’s a reflection of the work they’ve done all the years leading up to this.”

The state E.L.A., or English Language Arts, test was administered to fourth and eighth graders over three days in early February. A child’s performance on the fourth grade test influences his or her options for middle school.

The state math test was given in May, and the results will not be available until the fall.

Performance of local schools on standardized English tests
(Numbers reflect percentage of children who met or exceeded standards)

P.S. 150 P.S. 89 P.S. 234 I.S. 89

2003 fourth grade scores 66.7 72.7 98

2003 third grade scores 92 68.8 82.8

2004 fourth grade scores 100 84.8 87.4

2003 eighth grade scores 71.4

2004 eighth grade scores 66

Because of the high-pressure nature of the standardized tests, many local parents choose to have their children privately tutored to supplement the preparation they receive in school. Stacey Sosa, mother of a fourth-grade boy at P.S. 89 in Battery Park City, said she hired a popular tutor to work with Elias for three months before the test.

“I needed to jumpstart him a couple months prior to give him an understanding of how this test works,” Sosa said, adding that she was very pleased with his performance.

P.S. 89 posted big gains in the fourth-grade English scores this year. Last year, 72.7 percent of the students met or exceeded state standards, compared with 84.8 percent this year.

“We’re very happy,” said Ronnie Najjar, the principal. She noted that many factors contributed to the jump, including two new literacy coaches who worked with the students on test preparation.

On the other hand, scores at P.S. 234 dropped this year, from 98 percent meeting or exceeding state standards last year to 87.4 percent this year.

“I’m not panicked—the job we do is to teach children,” said Sandy Bridges, principal of the Tribeca elementary school. She noted that last year’s performance was “impossible to sustain.”

The school’s scores remain well above this year’s citywide average of 49.6 percent of students performing at or above grade level on the statewide fourth grade English test.

Parents and educators say a comparison of last year’s third grade scores with this year’s fourth grade scores would yield a more accurate indication of children’s progress, since those scores show the performance of the same group of children. At P.S. 234, for example, 82.8 percent of third graders met or exceeded the English standards last year, so this year’s 87.4 percent reflects an improvement for that group of students.

Scores at I.S. 89 dipped this year from 71.4 percent of eighth graders meeting or exceeding standards last year to 66 percent this year. Principal Ellen Foote did not return a call for comment.

School-by-school results of the citywide English and math tests, given to grades 3, 5, 6, and 7, are scheduled to be released on June 11, according to a Department of Education spokesperson.

Just as standardized tests can greatly impact a student’s educational career, scores on these tests also influence schools’ reputations. As part of his system wide overhaul, Mayor Mike Bloomberg identified 328 elite schools last spring, largely based on standardized test scores, that would be exempt from part or all of the uniform curriculum that was implemented last fall. P.S. 150, P.S. 89 and P.S. 234 are all exempt from the citywide curriculum, while I.S. 89 is not.

To view the test scores, go to the Department of Education’s Web site at www.nycboe.net, click on “Directory of Offices and Divisions” on the left side, then click on “Division of Assessment and Accountability” at the top of the next page, click on “Testing and Assessment” at the top of the following page, click on “Division of Assessment and Accountability,” and lastly click on the block with “City and State Test Results.”


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